March 26, 2015
This week, the Guardian posted a fantastic article written by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, urging those responsible for guiding the negotiations of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not to underestimate the importance of continual investment in rural development.
The idea behind rural development is nothing new, at both the international and domestic level the goal is the same; to improve the quality of life and fiscal security of those living in fairly isolated and sparsely occupied areas. Traditionally, the concept of rural development has focused mainly on agriculture, but there has been a shift to include a wider perspective in ways of targeting solutions to poverty and hunger through driving local development, promoting education, improving physical and social infrastructure, and sustainable use and management of national resources.
Those living in rural and peri-urban communities, are thought about when targets are developed, specifically thinking about poverty and hunger, but are never focused on as active solutions to the problem; which is interesting to think about as “more than three-quarters of the global poor are in rural areas.” The article argues that investing in small family farmers, those breeding livestock, fisherfolk, rural workers, indigenous peoples, and entrepreneurs are keys to promoting growth and pushing forward economic development in depressed regions.
The IDP Foundation, Inc. would agree whole heartedly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, on a myriad of things within this article, particularly on the topic of the strong entrepreneurial spirit already existing in the rural sector. This spirit is something we regularly see in our IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS) operating in Ghana, as 41% of our school proprietors giving educational access to children are doing so in remote areas; with another 45% operating in the peri-urban space. These individuals are not only helping achieve the Education for All target put forth in the Millennium Development Goals and backed by UNESCO, but they are also giving women the same access to opportunities as their male counterparts, which according to research has been shown to significantly reduce the number of poor and hungry people in a community.
The article also talks about partnerships, both public and private, to place equal focus on both the urban and rural areas when it comes to policy, and we would argue these policies should not only focus on the rural agricultural development but also social and educational to build a more inclusive and just civil sector and society; which would include low cost private schools and their owners since they too benefit the public good. Without education, the 17 overly ambitious SDGs and their 169 targets being set for the post-2015 agenda will not be possible, as sustainability can only come from localized development and targeted education.
We too ask that the rural people not be forgotten in this time of goal setting, and challenge those responsible for negotiations with the General Assembly to create an inclusive as well as equitable education agenda.
 Ward, Neil; Brown, David L. (1 December 2009). “Placing the Rural in Regional Development”. Regional Studies 43 (10): 1237–1244.